Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives

By James W. Pennebaker; Dario Paez et al. | Go to book overview

more generally, the connection is easily, almost inevitably made as these pursuits are discovered during adolescence; but with larger political and social happenings, the nature of the events themselves must create the connection of meaning. This research therefore neither confirms nor denies the curvilinear hypothesis about youth, but transforms it in a crucial respect.

Beyond the ideas and evidence presented here, there is the possibility of further generalization to the conditions that stimulate knowledge of other kinds. As elite interpretations of the more distant past change (e.g., of the impact of Christopher Columbus on Native Americans), cohorts growing up are likely to incorporate the new beliefs as part of their common sense assumptions about early American history. Furthermore, "first experiences" are likely to be a significant source not only of knowledge of history, but of personal knowledge and personal expectations more generally. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the first social science books students read, whether Emile Durkheim Suicide or Peter Berger Invitation to Sociology, make an impression seldom matched by later reading. The same should be equally true in other fields and other areas of knowledge as well. This speculation goes well beyond the data presented here, but it raises questions that deserve further exploration as an attempt is made to understand not only the generational basis of historical knowledge, but generational contributions to knowledge of all kinds.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The research reported here benefited greatly from the ideas and commitment of Cheryl Rieger. Important help was also received from Charlotte Steeh, Director of the 1991 Detroit Area Study, and from the students who took part in that practicum. Acknowledgment is due also to the technical section staffs of the Survey Research Center. Support for the research came primarily from a grant from the National Institute of Aging (AG08951), with earlier support from the National Science Foundation (SES-8410078) and from the University of Michigan.


REFERENCES

Andrews F. M., Morgan J. N., Sonquist J. A., & Klem L. ( 1973). Multiple classification analysis. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

Baddeley A. ( 1990). Human memory: Theory and practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Belli R. F., Schuman H., & Jackson B. (in press). "Autobiographical misremembering: John Dean is not alone". Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Clarke D. ( 1990). The Penguin encyclopedia of popular music. London: Penguin.

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